Five More Days
Shoddy exhibitions of petty politics have been common in the history of the American Congress, but there is no precedent for the present state of paralyzing disorganization. President Roosevelt, with the country behind him to the man, gave the solons of Capitol Hill three weeks to pass a price-and-wage control bill. Two of the three weeks have passed, and Congress gets farther from its objective with each hour of debate. Party discipline suffers from election-year dry rot, and the farm-bloc pressure group has lined up the boys from the corn and cotton states with perfect precision.
The President's over-all program requested the return of farm prices to parity, guaranteeing the farmer's dollar the same purchasing power as in 1914. Last year's price bill set the figure at 110 per cent of parity, and food costs immediately shot up. Defense of this legislative larcency was to be expected, but the farm bloc then insisted on 112 per cent by writing in a clause that wages to labor should be included in costs. Since only a few thousand well-to-do farmers hire laborers for pay, this proviso is both arbitrary and unnecessary. Only this minority fights to the last furrow for inflationary farm prices.
Since the war began, nearly every lobby except that controlled by the plutocratic Farm Bureau Federation has ceased its predatory strategy. Labor, damned for years as the most noisy group in Washington, has been singularly silent since the "act or else" speech of Labor Day. The National Association of Manufacturers is as quiet as the crickets in King Tut's tomb. Only the farm bloc stands in the way of immediate and effective anti-inflation legislation.
But the farmers are not solely to blame. Members of the House and Senate know well that the lobby of the agricultural aristocrats is small, but they have nevertheless followed the parity line with the blind allegiance of a Storm Trooper to Mein Kampf. Congress has turned over the job of drafting policy to a group of professional lobbyists. If the bill passes the Senate as speedily as it went through the House of Representatives, the President can only veto it and issue the necessary decrees to control prices under his powers as Commander in Chief.
Some Senators will yell "Dictatorship!" without realizing that it's their own fault. Dictatorship strikes a democracy only when it's legislature has decayed completely, and is not established by a strong man's seizing power when no one is looking. If wartime rule by the executive results from Congressional palsy, the blame will lie solely on Capitol Hill, not on the White House.